Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) presides over a War Cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv in this file photo. (AFP/File)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
  • Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he “strongly opposes” ending the war in Gaza, ahead of his war cabinet convening amid intense diplomacy to forge a truce and hostage release deal.

Meanwhile deadly fighting rocked the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants fired a salvo of rockets at Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv for the first time in months, sending people scrambling for shelter.
Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas’s demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the fighting, which was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack and has left vast areas of besieged Gaza in ruins.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had earlier told AFP that “the war cabinet is expected to meet... tonight at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) to discuss a hostage release deal.”
A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office before the meeting said Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya “Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again,” referring to the attack that triggered the war.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this,” the statement said.
A member of Hamas’s political leadership, Izzat Al-Rishq, accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression.”
In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists before meeting Palestinian premier Mohammed Mustafa that a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) was in Israel’s interest.
EU members Ireland and Spain, and also Norway, have said they will recognize the State of Palestine from Tuesday, drawing furious Israeli condemnation.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
Mustafa, whose government is based in the occupied West Bank, said the “first priority” was to support people in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” there after Hamas seized it from the PA in 2007.
US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the war, now in its eighth month.
The Israeli official had said Saturday that “there is an intention to renew these talks this week” after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators stalled in early May.
However, Rishq said Sunday that so far, “we have not received anything from the mediators.”
He insisted on Hamas’s long-standing demand for a permanent cessation of hostilities as “the foundation and the starting point for anything.”


Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas following the October 7 attack, but has also faced growing domestic and international criticism.
The attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The military on Sunday announced the death of a soldier in north Gaza, taking to 289 the number of troops killed since Israel began its ground offensive in late October.
As the war ground on, the families of hostages still held by Palestinians militants have piled pressure on Netanyahu to secure a deal to free them.
Washington has also taken a tougher line with its close ally as outrage over the war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden, seeking re-election in a battle against Donald Trump.
With more strikes reported Sunday across Gaza, Israel’s military said that over the past 24 hours it had destroyed “over 50 terror targets.”
Fighting has centered on the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel launched a ground operation in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Rafah resident Moaz Abu Taha, 29, told AFP of “constant bombardment from land and air, which has destroyed many houses.”
Gaza’s civil defense agency said it had retrieved six bodies after a house was targeted in eastern Rafah.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist (Israeli) massacres against civilians.”
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing that “Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at central Israel from Rafah.”
“Hamas launched these rockets from near two mosques in Rafah,” Hagari said. “Hamas is holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why we have been conducting a precise operation” there.
Analyst Neomi Neumann said the militants were not trying to “cause damage to Israel, but to maintain continuity of fire.”
They “shoot relatively few rockets per barrage from their diminishing arsenal, and choose when to concentrate their efforts,” said Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
The UN has warned of looming famine in the besieged territory, where most hospitals are no longer functioning.
Amid the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Israel has faced growing global outcry over the surging civilian death toll, and landmark moves last week at two international courts.
Last Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister as well as for three top Hamas figures.
And on Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive or any other operation there that could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians.
 


Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
Updated 20 June 2024
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Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
  • Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began

CAIRO: South Darfur saw a slight increase in critical aid when the UN’s World Food Program delivered life-saving food and nutrition to some families across the violence-riddled western Sudanese state, the organization said. But more assistance is needed, humanitarian organizations say.
The WFP mission in Sudan said Tuesday that more than 50,000 people in hunger hotspots across South Darfur are receiving much-needed food assistance in collaboration with relief agency World Vision.
WFP didn’t give a time frame for when the aid was distributed or say how WFP delivered the supplies. Several spokespersons for the organization did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.
Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year, when tensions between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted into intense fighting across the country.
“The number of people in South Darfur that suffer from hunger is vast and on top of that, there is a significant shortage of funds,” Yonas Mesele, deputy country director for Sudan with the French humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mesele said that of the estimated $581.2 million needed to meet humanitarian needs in Sudan, only 26 percent was secured, citing an announcement at a meeting for the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster Coordination on June 13.
The fighting in Sudan has displaced over 4.6 million people, according to the UN migration agency, including more than 3.6 million who were internally displaced and over 1 million others who fled to neighboring countries.
Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began. The population in the state of South Darfur is at risk of soon dying from hunger, a recent report by a Dutch think-tank warned.
The Clingendael Institute report said last month that around 2.5 million people in Sudan could die from hunger by the end of September 2024, with about 15 percent of the population in the regions of Darfur and Kordofan being likely the worst affected.
“Time is running out to avoid a rapid deterioration of the conflict-induced food insecurity crisis,” Samy Guessabi, country director for Sudan with Action Against Hunger, told the AP. “The international community and the parties to the conflict must take immediate action to alleviate hunger and prevent a catastrophic malnutrition emergency.”
In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF.
Despite the “devastating levels of hunger” that civilians are facing in the greater Darfur region, deliveries of food assistance have been “intermittent due to fighting and endless bureaucratic hurdles,” WFP said.
In April, the UN said it started distributing food in Darfur for the first time in months.


Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
Updated 20 min 17 sec ago
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Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
  • International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is ‘concerned by the ethnically motivated nature’ of the conflict
  • Fourteen months into the conflict, legal experts have criticized the court’s belated appeal for evidence of atrocities

LONDON: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has appealed for evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.”

However, legal experts who spoke to Arab News have accused the ICC of dragging its feet on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and of focusing too narrowly on the Darfur region while neglecting the wider conflict.

Khan last week said he had become “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of the conflict in Sudan after combatants reportedly attacked the main hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, in what likely constituted a war crime.

El-Fasher South Hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, after it was attacked. (X: Twitter)

Doctors from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed to Arab News that the attack on the South Hospital on June 8 had forced MSF and its partners in the Sudanese Ministry of Health to suspend all activities and withdraw staff from the facility.

A spokesperson said authorities had already reduced services at the hospital, with many patients having been transferred before the attack owing to the uptick in fighting around the city — the last in Darfur still under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

Fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a breakaway military faction that has seized control of swathes of the country since the conflict began on April 15, 2023, were accused of mounting the attack.

Members of Sudan's paramilitary group known as RSS were accused of burning villages in some parts of the country. (AFP/File)

“It’s outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital,” Michel Lacharite, head of emergencies at MSF, told Arab News. “It is not an isolated incident. Staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line.

“Warring parties must stop attacking hospitals. One by one, hospitals are damaged and closed. Remaining facilities in Al-Fasher aren’t prepared for mass casualties, we are trying to find solutions, but the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.”

INNUMBERS

• 14,000 Estimated number of people killed in Sudan since the conflict began on April 15, 2023.

• 10 million People displaced, including over 2 million who have crossed into neighboring countries.

The RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has previously denied claims that its forces attack civilian infrastructure.

While details about the hospital attack remain sketchy, the MSF spokesperson said “most patients” and “all MSF staff” were able to escape.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C), known as Hemeti, commander of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, has denied accusations that his group were committing war crimes. (AFP/File)

As the main referral hospital for treating Al-Fasher’s war-wounded, the only one equipped to manage mass casualty events and one of just two with surgical capacity, the loss of services will have a major impact. In less than a month, the facility had treated some 1,300 people.

The UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution on June 14 demanding an end to the siege of Al-Fasher.

The measure expressed “grave concern” over the spreading violence and reports that the RSF was carrying out “ethnically motivated violence.”

During the meeting, Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We believe that the Sudanese people deserve justice and peace. They need a ceasefire, a credible political process and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

Rebutting accusations made by the representative of Sudan’s SAF-backed government, he said: “Excuses and finger pointing only prolongs the suffering of civilians.”

Independent ivestigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones as Mohajer-6 and Zajil-3.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on April 18, 2022 shows an Iranian combat drone on display during a military parade in Tehran. Independent investigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones. (AFP/File)

According to Wim Zwijnenburg, a drone expert and head of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organisation PAX, the videos are “an indication of active Iranian support” for SAF.

“If these drones are equipped with guided munitions, it means they were supplied by Iran because those munitions are not produced in Sudan,” Zwijnenburg told BBC.

Sudan’s SAF-dominated governing council has denied acquiring weapons from Iran.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow for the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although the Al-Fasher hospital assault has been a wake-up call for the ICC, attacks of this kind were “nothing new.”

“The fact of the matter is that this is not the first hospital to be looted or destroyed in this conflict, Hudson told Arab News.

Fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state, on September 1, 2023, in the aftermath of bombardment by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). (AFP/File)

“It is a conflict that has been raging for 14 months and has been fought in much the same way with this attack well within the nature of the conflict.

“What is new is that Sudan’s civilian population’s ability to withstand the shocks of this war has depleted. But while it may feel like a game-changing moment, it is not.”

Referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian War, Hudson said: “Maybe if there was a Srebrenica moment, a move to extermination, that would be game-changing.”

Khan’s comments indicate the ICC has been paying attention to the situation in Sudan. However, Hudson voiced disappointment at the court’s slow response to the conflict.

Contrasting the “alacrity” with which the ICC acted against Russia for its war in Ukraine and Israel for its assault on Gaza — issuing arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin within 12 months and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within eight — he said it was telling of Sudan’s ranking in international priorities that the court was “only now” investigating.

International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Karim Khan (L) visits the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, on August 21, 2022. (AFP/File)

“Khan’s comments strike me as an admission that the court has not moved at pace and should have been doing more,” said Hudson. “I am not sure what restraints he is operating under but he’s not prioritized Sudan, and, in Darfur, these cases build themselves.

“It is not just the court, this conflict has been neglected more broadly, there need to be moves to build a diplomatic process and to get humanitarian aid because only eight percent of a global appeal has been met, which is shockingly low.

“I would like to see an increase in the cost on this war’s actors as part of a move to bring it to an end, including the use of sanctions, which have not been deployed efficiently, and could have a part to play in bringing actors to the negotiating table.”

Although efforts at brokering a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, Saudi aid agency KSrelief has been rolling out health projects intended to support Sudan’s civilian population, with three projects put into action in the last week alone.

Sudanese villagers receive humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia at a KSrelief center in Khartoum, Sudan. (SPA/File)

With thousands of civilians reportedly killed and thousands more displaced by the fighting across Darfur, the ICC’s machinery has swung into action. Even so, Sudanese international lawyers have expressed skepticism.

One who spoke to Arab News on the condition of anonymity said they were particularly concerned by Khan’s focus on the violence in Darfur when in reality, the violence has spread far beyond the troubled western region.

“The ICC was mandated to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005, and we have not yet seen any results from that mandate, and now this conflict is happening in other areas,” the lawyer said. “This violence is not all in — nor is it originating from — Darfur.

“What is happening outside Darfur is not lesser than the violence happening within it and yet the ICC, partly as a consequence of Sudan not being a party to the court’s jurisdiction, is drawing attention away from this and making it all about Darfur.”

Despite lacking jurisdiction as a consequence of the Sudanese government failing to ratify the ICC treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute, the court had gained jurisdiction for a limited investigation into earlier crimes in Darfur through a UN Security Council referral.

That referral resulted in the ICC’s 2009 decision to issue an arrest warrant for the since-ousted Sudanese President Omar Bashir for multiple charges, including for a genocide that took place in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

Sudan's former strongman Omar Bashir (left) was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the ICC over genocide charges committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2008 allegedly by the RSF led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (right)

Born out of Arab militias commonly known as Janjaweed, the RSF was mobilized by Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Welcoming Khan’s push for evidence, another Sudan-based legal expert, who spoke to Arab News anonymously, challenged those questioning the focus on Darfur, stressing it made sense given the region’s history.

“Does it make sense to keep looking at cases within the Darfur geographic region? Yes, because all that is happening in Sudan from 2003 up to now can be connected back to Darfur, as that is where this conflict’s root causes lie,” they said.

“There are questions to be asked though in relation to how the ICC is addressing the Darfur case and the role that this, and the coverage of it, will have around the protection of civilians as what is needed is to reduce that risk.”

Internally displaced women wait to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024. (AFP/File)

The war in Sudan has cost the lives of more than 14,000 people and left thousands more wounded while pushing the population to the brink of famine.

The UN warned the warring parties last month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis as more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including over 2 million people who have crossed into neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia has played a central role in facilitating talks between the two warring factions, urging them to meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and the requirements of international humanitarian law.
 

 


Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
Updated 20 June 2024
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Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
  • “Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari
  • PM Netanyahu's office quickly rebuffed the spokesman's statement, saying Hamas has to be defeated

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top army spokesman said Wednesday that Hamas cannot be eliminated, prompting a knee-jerk reaction from the government which quickly reiterated it remains committed to the Palestinian militant group’s destruction.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have failed to oust the Islamist militants from Gaza but have brought widespread devastation.
“To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people’s eyes. If we don’t provide an alternative, in the end, we will have Hamas,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israel’s Channel 13 broadcaster.
“Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology.”
His comments were quickly rebuffed by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose cabinet has stated its Gaza offensive will not end until Hamas is defeated.
“The political and security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu defined as one of the goals of the war the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities,” his office said in a statement.
“The IDF is of course committed to this.”
In a separate statement on its Telegram channel, the military clarified that Hagari had addressed Hamas “as an ideology... and his statements were clear and explicit.”
“Any other claim is taking the statement out of context.”
The October 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,396 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
 


US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria

US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria
Updated 19 June 2024
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US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria

US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria
  • Airstrike in Syria kills senior Daesh official and facilitator Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Janabi
  • US Central Command: ‘His death will disrupt Daesh’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks’

CAIRO: The US Central Command said on Wednesday it had conducted an airstrike in Syria that killed a senior Daesh official and facilitator named Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Janabi.
“His death will disrupt Daesh’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks,” it said in a statement on X.
It said: “There is no indication any civilians were harmed in this strike.”


Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
Updated 19 June 2024
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Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
  • More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine

GAZA: Nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike that hit a group of citizens and merchants in the southern Gaza Strip as they waited for convoys of aid trucks carrying goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing, medical sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Eight people were also killed on Wednesday when Israeli tanks backed by warplanes and drones advanced deeper into the western part of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, according to residents and Palestinian medics.
Residents said the tanks moved into five neighborhoods after midnight. Heavy shelling and gunfire hit the tents of displaced families in the Al-Mawasi area, further to the west of the coastal enclave, they said.
Some eight months into the war, there has been no sign of let up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have so far failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.